Facebook has announced it will be making some drastic changes to its advertising platform following civil rights groups, such as National Fair Housing Alliance and American Civil Liberties Union, accusing the company of allowing advertisers to wrongfully discriminate against minorities, women and elderly people by using ad-targeting tech to exclude them from seeing legal protection ads (housing, jobs and credit).

Furthermore, Facebook has agreed to pay out around $5 million to settle five lawsuit cases and take measures to prevent discriminatory advertising on its platforms as part of an agreement with civil rights groups.

The settlement resolves claims that Facebook’s ad-targeting technology allowed advertisers to exclude groups from seeing housing, employment and credit offers. It also establishes a partnership with the National Fair Housing Alliance, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Communication Workers of America union to work more closely to prevent discrimination on Facebook in addition to Instagram and Messenger.

“It is a game-changer,” said Lisa Rice, the executive vice president of the National Fair Housing Alliance; “The settlement positions Facebook to be a pacesetter and a leader on civil rights issues in the tech field.”

What’s been agreed?

As part of the agreement, Facebook will assemble a designated portal for advertisers to create housing, employment, and credit ads, which will not allow them to target users by age, gender, address or other categories covered by anti-discrimination laws. 

Micro-targeting options that relate to these protected categories will be off limits as well, and Facebook’s lookalike audiences tool will also incorporate these restrictions. Any advertiser that wants to run an ad on Facebook will be required to indicate if their ad is related to housing, employment or credit.

Furthermore, Facebook will build a tool which will let you search for and view all current housing ads anywhere in the US, regardless of who is targeted or where they live. According to Facebook, the changes will be completed by the end of the year.

“Housing, employment and credit ads are crucial to helping people buy new homes, start great careers, and gain access to credit. They should never be used to exclude or harm people,” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said announcing in a blog post; “Getting this right is deeply important to me and all of us at Facebook because inclusivity is a core value for our company.”